BEST OF FRIENDS

Larry Carl­ton dis­cov­ered a spe­cial gui­tar to suit all pur­poses and that 1968 Gibson ES-335 helped the Amer­i­can back­ing mu­si­cian de­velop a dis­tinc­tive style that has served him well for many years

The Gold Coast Bulletin - Play Magazine - - LIVE & LOUD - NOEL MEN­GEL

Some love af­fairs re­ally are for­ever. Just ask Larry Carl­ton, the Amer­i­can gui­tarist whose dis­tinc­tive tone has graced al­bums by ev­ery­one from Steely Dan to Joni Mitchell and Michael Jack­son.

The gui­tar he will be play­ing on his Aus­tralian tour is the same one that’s been with him through thick and thin on a ca­reer that stretches back to the ’60s.

While many famed gui­tarists as­sem­ble an ar­se­nal of gui­tars for ev­ery mood and oc­ca­sion, Carl­ton has been con­tent with his 1968 Gibson ES-335, which is the gui­tar he es­ti­mates he has used on 90 per cent of his record­ings.

“In late ’69 I started get­ting calls to play record­ing ses­sions in Los Angeles,’’ Carl­ton ex­plains. “At that time we would never know what style of mu­sic the ses­sion would be. Most of us gui­tar play­ers would carry a Tele­caster for coun­try mu­sic, a Les Paul if we wanted some­thing more Clap­ton-ish, some­thing else for jazz. I re­ally got tired of schlep­ping all those gui­tars around.’’

He re­mem­bers clearly go­ing into Mr Bs For Mu­sic store in Pa­los Verdes in Los Angeles and see­ing three of the 335s on the wall. The one he chose has been with him ever since.

“In my hands that gui­tar was ver­sa­tile like I am ver­sa­tile. I could cover a lot of ter­ri­tory with­out hav­ing to change gui­tars so it was a prac­ti­cal de­ci­sion.’’

Ver­sa­tile and taste­ful are the two ad­jec­tives that best de­scribe Carl­ton’s style. He was never one for flashy shows of tech­nique, but his melodic style, of­ten with dis­tinc­tive use of a vol­ume pedal, came to play a cru­cial part on al­bums like Steely Dan’s The Royal Scam and Aja. Rolling Stone rated his solo on Dan’s Kid Charle­magne as one of the great­est rock so­los ever.

Carl­ton says his ver­sa­til­ity was a prod­uct of the mu­sic he heard grow­ing up.

“I was born in 1948 and started play­ing in ’56, so I got to hear the be­gin­ning of rock’n’roll mu­sic, the be­gin­ning of R&B, The Bea­tles, I got in­volved with jazz when I was 14, found the blues when I was 16. I got to ex­pe­ri­ence all those styles and hear­ing and play­ing them, cre­ated my own style.’’

In his early years as a ses­sion man he could be called on to play on ev­ery­thing from Par­tridge Fam­ily al­bums to Bar­bra Streisand. From 1971 to 1976 he was a mem­ber of band The Cru­saders, for­merly The Jazz Cru­saders, and he per­formed on 13 of their al­bums be­fore launch­ing his solo ca­reer in 1978.

“By the mid-’70s I’d been do­ing ses­sions for at least four years. People started call­ing to ask me to play like Larry Carl­ton, they didn’t ex­pect me to play like some­one else. In the be­gin­ning they might say, ‘Can you sound kind of like this record?’ but by the time I was record­ing with people like Joni I was al­lowed to cre­ate just what I heard. That’s what made it so much fun.’’

Steely Dan’s Wal­ter Becker said: “If Royal Scam is the de­fin­i­tive Steely Dan gui­tar al­bum, Larry is the rea­son.’’ Larry Carl­ton plays The Tivoli, Bris­bane, to­mor­row night.

Larry Carl­ton with his 1968 Gibson gui­tar.

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